The UCT Chemical Engineering department's tradition of excellence is reflected in the fact that almost a third of South Africa's chemical engineers graduate from UCT. As the custodian of the largest national research programme, the Department is recognised as the leading academic department of its kind in Africa. UCT chemical engineering graduates are highly sought after in the workplace, and occupy key positions in top companies. The programme is fully accredited by the Engineering Council of South Africa.
What is Chemical Engineering?
Almost everything you use in your daily life - plastics, metals, textiles, paper, food and beverages, toiletries, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals - has been made with the help of a chemical engineer. The process of converting raw (and sometimes recycled) materials into finished products is complex, involving research and development, design, construction, daily plant operations and management - all the domain of the chemical engineer.
Not only do chemical engineers have to design and operate cost-effective processes, they also have to ensure that these are accomplished in the most environmentally-friendly way. Often old processes need to be adapted to meet more stringent environmental standards. Environmental scientists are there to indicate what the impact of a process will be on the environment, but chemical engineers play the definitive role in being able to design processes to meet their specifications.
Job opportunities in Chemical Engineering
Chemical engineers work in many different and exciting workplaces - not only in the expected settings of petrochemical and mining industries, but also in a wide variety of other process-based industries such as food, beverage, paint and pharmaceutical industries. In addition UCT-trained chemical engineers have excellent general problem-solving skills - often they also end up in places where you wouldn't expect to see them: banking, marketing, computing - usually at the top of the pile, mind you!
The combination of a chemical engineering degree and a business-related qualification (like an MBA) is very powerful. If you would rather work in a small consultancy or run your own business, chemical engineering also provides a great platform. There are also endless opportunities in research and development for chemical engineers. Whatever your interest, a UCT chemical engineering degree will assure you of a rewarding career.
Studying Chemical Engineering at UCT
Essential foundations are laid with the study of Mathematics, Chemistry and Physics, but students also have an Introduction to Engineering course in which key ideas in chemical engineering are introduced in a practical manner, with a number of project-based assignments. Engineering Drawing is also studied.
The major introduction to Chemical Engineering comes in three key second-year courses, starting with material and energy balances, which are the fundamental tools of the chemical engineer. Alongside these theoretical courses students also do a laboratory course and two design courses which provide illustration and practice with the concepts. In this year students also study Mathematics 2 and Chemistry 2.
At this stage of the programme almost all the courses comprise chemical engineering subjects, and project work is integrated with the theoretical courses. The major laboratory work takes place in this year, and students are also trained to communicate effectively in a professional environment. In the third year students also need to choose courses to do in other faculties, as well as some specialised chemical engineering options. At the end of third year, students spend some of their vacation as interns in the commercial world.
The first semester comprises courses focused on the specific work that chemical engineers might do in practice. The second semester is the culmination of the chemical engineering degree, in which concepts and skills are drawn together in the final year design project and research project.
Why choose UCT?
The Department of Chemical Engineering at UCT is a vibrant and strong department in both undergraduate teaching and postgraduate research. With almost a third of South Africa's chemical engineering graduates coming from UCT and the largest national research programme, the Department rightfully deserves its recognition as the leading Department of Chemical Engineering on the continent. The undergraduate programme has been well structured to promote student learning and development, with staff that provide a caring and supportive environment. UCT chemical engineering graduates are highly sought after in the workplace, and occupy key positions in top companies. The degree is accredited both locally by the Engineering Council of South Africa and by the Institution of Chemical Engineers in the UK.
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